My Frugal Reality Check

posted by Andrea | 03/15/2013

one penny

I love sharing simple ideas and tips to save money on almost everything; however, I felt like I needed to write this post — just as a “reality check” for those of us (myself included) that might get a little too carried away, trying to save EVERY. SINGLE. PENNY.

Most of the time, I’d say that a little extra work is worth it to save a buck or two — and those pennies and dollars WILL add up over the course of a month or a year.

But when saving every single penny starts to stress you out or cause you to waste more time and energy in the process, it’s probably not worth it.

If you also enjoy saving, you can probably relate to these crazy {and very true} stories from my own life!

1. Special Grocery Discounts

The only credit card we have offers a special promotion of 5% off groceries on random days throughout the year. So whenever these special days are announced, I always try to make that day the day I get groceries.

Often times, these special days fall on Monday — which is when I try to get groceries anyway, so it works out nicely. However, the most recent 5% off day was on a Saturday… and I absolutely HATE getting groceries on Saturday. Not only is Saturday the day when Dave is actually home (so I can get lots of things done around the house), the stores are a zoo on Saturdays because that’s when everyone gets groceries.

I can’t even tell you the last time I stepped foot in a grocery store on a Saturday — but there I was, contemplating if I could rearrange my schedule and wait until Saturday to get groceries. Besides milk, we wouldn’t have run out of anything… but I knew the store would be even busier than a normal Saturday because of the 5% off deal. Yet I still felt like I HAD to go on Saturday to capitalize on that extra savings.

Thankfully, after crunching some numbers, I realized how ridiculous I was being. Since I rarely spend more than $50 a week on groceries, a 5% savings would add up to $2.50 or less — and that tiny amount definitely wasn’t worth wasting precious productive hours on a Saturday or dealing with the crazy crowds.

Instead, I got groceries on Monday like I always do, and enjoyed the fully stocked shelves and empty checkout lanes!

2. Amazon.com Shipping

I frequently shop online — mainly from Amazon.com. It’s so much easier than going to the store and I can almost always get free shipping if I wait until I compile $25 or more.

However, a few weeks ago, I really needed to order a small item for one of our strollers. It was only about $5, but I had nothing else to buy and couldn’t get free shipping unless I added $20 more to my cart.

Shipping was only another $3.00 — but still, I NEVER pay shipping. EVER!

I thought about driving around to different stores to try and find it, but then realized I would waste so much time, Nora would be cranky, and I would certainly go through more than $3.00 worth of gas…

So I paid the shipping. It was worth the extra $3.00!

(I do know that I can get free shipping with Amazon Prime or Amazon Mom, but my free trial is up and I don’t want to pay the $80 per year since this was the first time I’ve ever paid for shipping.)

3. Passing Up Freebies

I love free stuff as much as anyone — probably more. So when I get those $10 off any purchase coupons from JCPenny’s, Victoria’s Secret, and other stores in the mall, I feel like I just HAVE to use them.

For the most part, I’m extremely diligent and only spend $10 -$12 total — so less than $2 after the coupon. I do still have the time and gas involved to get to the mall… not to mention the probability that once I was in the mall, I would most likely have to check out a few other stores (or the food court), but I figure it’s worth it to get potential freebie items.

However, about a month ago, I knowingly let one of those coupons expire. I didn’t need anything, I didn’t feel like braving the snowy roads and dealing with a crabby baby to browse, and I just didn’t care.

Since then, I’ve decided that if I have the time, if I’m going to be at the mall for something else, or if I specifically need something from a store with a $10 coupon, I will go and use it. If not, I’ll either give the coupon to a friend/family member or it will expire (and then I’ll enjoy the extra space in my closet!)

4. Gas

This is a biggie –especially for me.

Even though I KNOW that an increase of $0.10 will only amount to a $2.00 savings for a full tank of gas; my blood still boils when I see the price jump. SO many times (way too many times) I’ve driven to a different gas station to get the lower price.

Yes. I know. It’s ridiculous.

I’ve wasted time, energy, stress, and more gas in attempts to save a dollar or two.

But over the past year, I’ve decided that it just doesn’t matter. It often takes me 2 weeks or more to go through one tank of gas, so whenever my tank is getting low, I fill up. I honestly try not to even look at the price anymore because that $0.50 or $2.00 just doesn’t matter.

I realize that by admitting my internal struggles over mere pennies, many of you might think I’m insane. I’m OK with that — because most of the time, that overly-frugal voice in my head prevents me from spending money needlessly.

But every once in a while, I need a quick reality check to realize that going out of my way to save $2 or $3 is just NOT worth it.

I’m still an advocate for saving, no matter how small the amount. Just make sure that small savings doesn’t cause you more time and stress than it’s worth!

Please tell me I’m not the only one with these crazy stories?

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40 comments

  1. Mary

    03/15/2013

    I love this post so thanks as I feel I can relate to this too. Sometimes you do just need to relax a bit or you could drive yourself crazy!!

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  2. Rebecca

    03/16/2013

    I have learned to let the little grocery coupons go by the wayside, especially if they don’t fit into the menu plan.
    What I have really started to realize is that I do not have to maximize use of every KOHLS couppon, discount card, etc. that comes down the pike. I do try to use Kohls cash when I have it (since I basically bought an item based on getting it), but I can walk around Kohls for a long time and not be able to select anything! What a waste of time!

    [Reply]

  3. Maria

    03/16/2013

    I totally agree with your post – especially the one regarding grocery discounts and not shopping on Saturdays.

    However, my mistake was going to thrift stores and buying something to resell on e-bay. I’ve done this a couple of times and totally regretted it because I found the time spent in trying to sell the item, packaging and mailing it, is not really worth it! A couple of times, I just ended up donating the item as I didn’t think it was worth the trouble. So unless someone has lots of time on their hands or really knows the price an item is worth, I don’t think its worth the trouble.

    I also woudn’t waste time purchasing clothing at thrift stores ( here in Canada we have Value Village and Talize) as they are so over-priced. For example, I once saw some jeans for $14.00 in Value Village, which I’m sure you could buy on sale at Old Navy for close to that amount if not less! Also, there’s a lot of time wasted in searching for clothing at thrift stores because you have to really check over the item for stains, tears, or some other defect. Plus now with the bedbug controversy , I would definitely not buy any clothing at thrift stores. So needless to say, I no longer go to thrift stores (or garage sales) for used clothing items.

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  4. Amy

    03/17/2013

    I once read a blog post wherein the writer drive ALL over town to get a few items for a diy project to save money. She had to have spent way more on fuel and time than just buying the thing she was making. It’s easy to do. I’ve definitely had those internal struggles like those you wrote about here. That’s why I love your blog. You’re so grounded and practical.

    [Reply]

  5. Patty@homemakersdaily.com

    03/18/2013

    You’re absolutely NOT! I’ve wrestled with some of those same things. When you think about it generally, it seems foolish not to take advantage of whatever deal you’re considering. But when you run the numbers, they don’t always add up.

    It’s a wise woman who can see that and do what works for her even if it might not seem to make sense to others.

    [Reply]

  6. Jessica

    03/21/2013

    My favorite so far is that you had to force yourself to pay the $3.99 for the magazine that YOU WERE IN! ;)

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  7. Julie

    03/23/2013

    My favorite story was “stocking up” on clearance condiments (at the end of the summer when the bonus sizes are marked down at Target). I just recently threw away some that had expired. Lesson — a two person family should not watch Extremely Couponing because who really needs ten botles of ketchup?!?!?!?

    [Reply]

    Allison Reply:

    I was on such a coupon high that when I could get the 2lb bottles of ketchup for $0.40, I bought 10. I now bring one to my friend’s whenever we have an informal get together.
    So ridiculous. I should’ve just gotten 2.

    [Reply]

  8. Felecia

    03/26/2013

    You are not alone! I have been there too! Love your blog. : )

    [Reply]

  9. Shanna

    07/21/2013

    I’m thankful for your blog! My husband and I live in Japan where the cost of living is much higher, especially electricity. Our “bad frugal habit” is that we unplug EVERYTHING in between uses. Additionally, outlets aren’t in convenient places in our house, which means we have to plug things in by walking extension cords around the house. Our guests are always confused why they can’t get the oven or microwave to work right away. :-)

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  10. erin @ slimsavers.com

    08/01/2013

    I ALWAYS weigh in my time. Time is money, and mine is valuable.

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  11. Kelekona

    08/21/2013

    You have to run the entire formula, which weighs all the involved costs, including sanity and time. Also remember that just because homemakers don’t do wage break-downs, their time is not worthless.

    Making enchiladas from scratch is cheap, and many of the ingredients are shelf-stable, but many people don’t even make them for the freezer unless they want the healthy version. Popping a commercially-frozen tray of dinner into the oven is worth more than earning the money they spent on it.

    [Reply]

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